Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happy Holidays from the HFC Staff!

From left--Cricket, Larissa, Jenny, Cheryl, and Christi

The Heroes for Children staff wish you and your family a wonderful, happy, and healthy holiday season. No matter what you celebrate, we hope it is filled with love and happiness! Have fun, and get a little silly. Because, really isn't it fun to be a little silly sometimes? We certainly think so!

And playing a little Nintendo Wii....

Even our Chairman of the Board got into the bowling fun!

With a look of determination to beat them all

And what's a party without a pretty princess to join us all?

Happy Holidays to everyone from the Heroes for Children staff. This blog will be taking a break until January to enjoy our family time for the holidays (and maybe a little more Wii!). We look forward to having you join us in this incredible journey in 2008!
With gratitude,
Jenny and Larissa

Friday, December 14, 2007

First Heroes Milestones Request Filled!

Heroes Milestones was created as one of our social assistance programs to provide milestone parties for children with cancer whether they are in the hospital and can’t attend or they are at home and just can’t afford to celebrate the milestone. The idea came from one of my experiences with Kira. A few of us threw her a graduation party at the hospital since she missed graduation. I really wanted to make this a reality for other kids, so as soon as I found out I got the job with Heroes, I started mentioning the idea to Jenny. We met with a few social workers and came up with a game plan.

We finalized the plans for Heroes Milestones months ago, but hadn’t received any requests, until late in the afternoon on December 4th. A social worker let Jenny know about Nathaniel’s situation and we decided this would be a great Heroes Milestones request. Nathaniel, a 14 year old from Humble, Texas, has been battling ALL since he was 5… that’s EIGHT years!! Unfortunately he is losing his battle to the disease, but despite his ailing health he had a noble mission to fulfill to leave his legacy. His request was for a shopping spree to buy mementos for all of his family. Beyond that, we wanted to do more for him. I told his mom we could cater a dinner for them, so Nathaniel could pass out his presents. She told us his favorite place to eat was Carrabba’s . We also asked her what one gift she thought Nathaniel would want, and she replied, “Fireworks… He loves fireworks!!”

On Tuesday night I emailed our Houston volunteers to see if they had a connection with Carrabba’s. Oh what a connection they had!!! I could check dinner off of my list. On Wednesday, December 5th , ( December 5th four years ago was when Kira passed away- scroll down to the post - How I found Heroes- to read more about Kira) I started working immediately on the other details of this request. Nathaniel chose Things Remembered for his shopping spree, because they have great items for engraving. I worked with Nathaniel’s mom to figure out what items he wanted from Things Remembered. Then I called Things Remembered to be sure they had enough items of each in stock. Then came the task of figuring out the fireworks!! I had to be sure fireworks were even legal in his neighborhood, so I first called the Fire Marshall. Or a few until I figured out which one was the correct one. He gave me a recommendation for a fireworks company and told me what kind of show was allowed with out permits. I played phone tag with his recommendation for a day or two and decided to google fireworks companies in Houston. I came across the Phoenix Design group . JACKPOT!! They were so nice and willing to help. Whew… I am feeling someone good at this point! Kind of amazed it’s all falling into place. Kira definitely had a hand in all of this and was obviously telling people they had to say “Yes!!” to my every request!

So now I have dinner, the gifts, and the fireworks! I need to find a place in his neighborhood where they can shoot a 1.4G fireworks show and not be close to any buildings. We find the place, but then I have to figure out who owns it. So after many calls to the school by the park, the police department, the parks and recreation and multiple homeowners associations, I finally figure out which homeowner’s association owns the park. They want a written request so they can ask their board if it’s okay to use the park. By this time it is Friday evening and I am trying to pull this all off by Tuesday, December 11th.

Whew! I get the letter to the homeowners association, they approve it, so then I have to call the Phoenix Design group and the Fire Marshall to let them know!

So we are all set! Tuesday rolls around and I meet Nathaniel, his Mom, and two Houston volunteers at Deerbrook Mall for a private shopping experience at Things Remembered. He chose the wording and the font for the items and then we went to the jewelry store to choose the necklaces for his Mom and two grandmothers. He chose necklaces with his birthstone (aquamarine), so they can always wear him around thier necks. So precious!!

Nathaniel rests all afternoon because it is going to be a long night. At 6:00 the family (well most of the family) arrives at the pavilion in their neighborhood park (Carrabba’s decided the pavilion would be a nice place for the dinner). The dinner was supposed to start at 6:00 but a car chase on 59 had some of the attendees sitting in traffic for hours.

At 7:00 we started the evening off with the fireworks show. It was a 5:00 minute show with lots of oohs and ahhs from the family. The best part was that the fireworks actually brought a smile to Nathaniel’s face. He was in so much pain the entire day that there were very few smiles. Jumping through all those hoops was definitely worth it for that one smile!!!

After the fireworks, Carrabba’s served the dinner family style. Thankfully, Nathaniel was feeling well enough to eat, so he was able to thoroughly enjoy the food. Once everyone was finished eating, Nathaniel and his mom passed out the gifts to the family.

His family was so thankful for the presents and so thankful that Heroes for Children was able to provide this great celebration of life for Nathaniel. We’ve now set the bar very high for each Heroes Milestones request to follow, but it was SOOO worth it for just that one smile. See first picture up top.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

December Volunteer of the Month

I'm a little late this month on posting our Volunteer of the Month, but not because she didn't get me the information in time. She did. In November. And yet, with so many recent blog entries, I haven't fit in one about my favorite paramedic in Houston.

I don't think it is possible for me to say enough good things about Pat Locke and her sweet, caring nature. She is the Volunteer Chair of our Heroes and Handbags Houston event for the second year now and never misses a meeting--even in the middle of a 24 hour shift or after a full day of no sleep. My favorite thing Pat has done with us this year is helping coordiate all the efforts for Holiday Heroes in Houston. Four families were "adopted" for Holiday Heroes this year. Pat coordinated Handbags volunteers with team captains and volunteers assigned to each individual family. She shopped for a total of four hours, wrapped one family's gifts, and even got her daughter Hanna's friends to help make ornaments! This week, thanks to Pat's leadership, all the families will receive their gifts, trees, and even meals from their team captains. You know--coordinating volunteer efforts in a city where you aren't based isn't easy. But with Pat's help, it sure is a lot easier than it would be!

So--I give you Pat Locke, our December Volunteer of the Month!

Name, Age, Occupation:

Pat Locke
41 years old
Paramedic Field Supervisor, Montgomery County Hospital District EMS

How did you get involved with HFC?

Randal Locke, my husband’s brother… you know the story (October Volunteer of the Month!)! He’s SOOO passionate about HFC. It’s hard not to get caught up.

Do you have any kids and/or pets?

I have 3 awesome children: Nathan (fantastic musician and guitarist), Seth (3.75 GPA after his first 2 semesters in college – yeah!) and Hanna (incredible athlete, champion of numerous causes for the weak and downtrodden and quite the free spirit). All 3 are such independent thinkers – can talk about almost any issue (politics, religion, economy). I love it! They definitely are not afraid to disagree. They are my life’s work. I am so blessed to be their mom and am amazed every day.

I have 2 dogs – Dixie – Princess Dixie – the greatest dog (a flashy fawn boxer) in the world ever and Cash (as in Johnny), who is a lab PUPPY. Oh my. Love my dogs. They are inside, lap dogs. Cash: What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine and where’s the party?! And then Dixie: “Oh, you’re gonna be in touble!! I’m going to sit over here and watch.”

From looking at you, no one would guess that…..

I’ve climbed two 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado.

Favorite place to eat:

Place? As in singular…just 1? Yikes. What day is it? Chuey’s…I guess.

What’s on your book shelf?

I’m an avid reader so I keep lots of books around and read parts of them randomly and over and over…here are a few:

Eat, Love & Pray by someone I can’t think of right now
Facing Your Giants by Max Lucado (he’s from my hometown of Andrews – great guy!)
How to Talk to a Liberal if You Must by Ann Coulter
A vast array of Daniel Goleman books on Emotional Intelligence and leadership
Last, but not least, The Sweet Potato Queens! Always good for a laugh

What’s in your iPod/CD changer?

Oh wow. Music is a huge part of my life. James Taylor, Cross Canadian Ragweed, George Winston, Rodrigo y Gabriella (instrumental guitar), Reckless Kelly, Chris Cornell, Ben Danaher, The Eagles, Bon Jovi…

Who’s your hero?

My mother, who handled life, and death, with such grace, poise, wisdom and dignity. She taught by example and loved her family. I am blessed to be able to say I was truly raised by such an amazing woman.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday Heroes Delivers!

Our new program Holiday Heroes has proven to be a huge success! We delivered to our first family last week. I had the pleasure of joining one of our Holiday Heroes groups deliver their gifts to the family. We took bags and bags full of wrapped presents, a Christmas tree, a tub of ornaments and decorations to the family.

Trevon (nine year old with osteosarcoma) and his two siblings were there to help decorate their house for Christmas. There were Christmas carols, kisses, and hugs all around between the children. It was the most precious scene!

The highlight of the visit was when Trevon collapsed, in jest, to the floor after opening up an envelope with signed pictures from his favorite wrestlers. He couldn’t believe his eyes! Just wait until he opens the rest of his gifts. Thanks to our awesome volunteer Megan, who contacted WWE to get memorabilia and signed pictures of his favorite wrestlers, Trevon will have WWE gifts a plenty!

Heroes for Children and the wonderful Holiday Heroes volunteers have ensured that this Christmas will be a beautiful memory for Trevon and his family to cherish for a lifetime.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Year end Giving

Tis the season for shopping, partying, and hopefully reflecting on the reason and spirit of the season. We all tend to get caught up in the many stresses of the holidays.... i know i do, at least!! Getting just the right picture of the kids made for the Christmas cards (which with 4 kids is no easy task!!) Picking out that perfect gift for everyone, all the parties, etc.. etc...
Many of us make year end gifts this time of year. Heroes for Children relies on gifts such as these in order for us to continue to help those families in need. This time of year we get MANY requests for assistance. Families are trying to make ends meet, AND provide some type of Christmas for their family. It is not easy. I remember when Taylor was in the hospital over Christmas. It definately made me realize that I would give up EVERY material possesion I had just to have my daughter well again. Heroes for Children has adopted families this year to help make their Christmas special. We even fulfilled a special request from a teenage boy that is terminal, all he wanted was to buy gifts for his family and friends so they would have something to remember him by. Thanks to our new Heroes Milestones program, we are able to make his final wish a reality.
Please take time during this busy holiday season to reflect on the blessings in your life, and if you are able, make a gift to Heroes for Children as a gift to someone special in your life.
I will leave you with one final thought. Just this week i asked my six year old daughter, if she could have just one thing for Christmas what would she want? She said another baby sister! I said, well sweetie, that is not going to happen, so what else? She said, to have Taylor back. Oh how I wish I could make that wish come true.
Blessings to you and yours this holiday season.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Austin's Story

A smile and a laugh--that is what I think about when I hear Austin's name. His laugh is infectious, the kind that makes you want to think of more funny faces and silly stories to keep the belly laughing going longer. The kind that makes you forget that he has cancer.